Tag Archives: Wind Energy

Federal money could help build Healy wind farm

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sunday, May 9, 2010:

Electric utility managers say it’s a federal clean energy program that has them poised to build a big wind farm near Healy.

The program would repay more than two-thirds of construction costs for a $93 million Eva Creek farm, Golden Valley Electric Association president Brian Newton said Friday.

The utility has weighed the proposed farm for years and recently tested markets for renewable energy aid. Newton said they learned last month the project falls under the federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program and would be reimbursed from the federal treasury. They are talking of building the 24 megawatt wind farm immediately.

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Report: Wood, wind could help meet rural Alaska energy needs

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Saturday, May 1, 2010:

Fort Yukon could turn to wood-fired power to ease its reliance on diesel fuel. Tanana could install wind turbines and start using half as much fuel within a few years.

The Alaska Energy Authority published those scenarios and about 200 more, including cost estimates, this week. The report comes less than a month after the Legislature set, as official state policy, the target of using wind turbines, hydroelectric dams and other renewable projects for at least half Alaska’s electricity by 2025.

“This gives you the pathway to get there,” said Steve Haagenson, director of the authority.

The agency released the report, an “energy pathway,” to coincide with a three-day rural energy conference in Fairbanks that ended Thursday.

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GVEA proposes Healy wind farm to boost renewable power

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, April 28, 2010:

The Golden Valley Electric Association announced  plans Tuesday at its annual meeting to pursue the Eva Creek wind project, a $93 million effort to generate about 24 megawatts of power near Healy.

“After almost a decade of planning, study and research we finally think that we have a project that makes economic sense,” said Brian Newton, the GVEA president and CEO.

He said the final decision on the project is to be made in the next few months. It would be the first wind project by any Railbelt utility and the largest of the dozen or so wind farms in Alaska.

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A Grid of Wind Turbines to Pick Up the Slack

From The New York Times, Monday, April 12, 2010:

Like most other sources of alternative energy, the wind can be intermittent. It does not blow uniformly, so power output from wind turbines rises and falls. And when the wind doesn’t blow at all, output drops to zero.

Intermittency is not much of a problem now in the United States, since there are relatively few wind farms and plenty of interconnected conventional power plants to pick up the slack when wind output falls, keeping the power supply stable. But if the proportion of electricity supplied by wind were to grow to, say, 20 percent or more, it would become increasingly difficult to handle the fluctuations in output.

One proposed solution to the intermittency problem is to tie many wind farms together with a transmission line — making an electric grid, as it were, consisting of wind turbines. Now, Willett Kempton of the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration at the University of Delaware and colleagues have shown how this “all-for-one” approach might work with offshore wind farms along the Eastern Seaboard.

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Insulating your septic tank; identifying permafrost; putting up a wind turbine

Alaska HomeWise: Ask a Builder

By Cold Climate Housing Research Center Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Recently, I was scoffed at for wanting to insulate my septic tank when I install it next summer. How much insulation is necessary for a septic tank?

Septic tanks contain bacteria that will break down septic sludge. These organisms will do much better in a warm environment than a cold one. There is some debate on how much insulation makes a difference when it comes to soil temperature and bacteria performance. However, a bigger concern is a septic tank freezing because it was not buried deep enough, or does not have enough insulation to protect it from cold air. A frozen septic is more likely in the winters of extreme cold with little snow. In that case, the ground freezes very hard and very deep.

When in doubt, it is cheap insurance to add a layer of rigid two-inch foam insulation on top of the tank and a few feet down on the sides. In fact, insulating a septic tank is a good way to use up all the damaged or left over pieces of foam from a jobsite. Another alternative is to have the top of the tank sprayed with several inches of polyurethane foam. Do not forget to consult with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for the most recent codes for insulating a tank.

Is there a way to tell if land is full of permafrost just by looking at it?

There are some visual indicators, but they are not 100% reliable when determining whether or not land has permafrost. For starters, look at the other houses in the area and the types of foundations they have. If there are a lot of houses on posts, or if houses with conventional foundations are sagging, that could be a sign of permafrost. If the land is down in the flats or on the north side of a hill and has mostly little black spruce trees and moss, that often indicates ice in the soil, because the land cannot support a big root structure. Sometimes a piece of land can have good-looking ground but permafrost underneath at a low depth or ice lenses (pockets of ice) only under small areas.

Not everywhere has a lot of wind, so when is putting up a wind turbine system practical? ?

You can still put up a turbine, but it is important to have a good wind resource. If you are connected to the electrical grid, you want to have average wind speed at about ten miles per hour or better. Of course the cost of electricity for your home will dramatically affect any possible payback of putting in a wind system. If you are in a village and paying 60 cents a kilowatt hour for power, then having “enough’” wind is going to be different than if you are in Anchorage and paying eight cents a kilowatt hour for power. Look at how much energy you are likely to produce annually, how much money you will save, and the cost of installing a system – all before deciding if a wind system is cost-effective.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org. You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

Construction industry working to limit offgassing


By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: What is offgassing and is it something I need to worry about?

Offgassing, also called outgassing, is a term used to describe any chemical compounds or irritants that are emitted from something. Any building products such as plywood, paints or carpets, construction glues and varnishes can emit chemicals for extended periods after they have been installed. Offgassing is common in solvent-based or petroleum-based products. Good ventilation is an important factor in combating offgassing.

Current building codes require mechanical ventilation in new construction to ensure that a house gets enough fresh air. If you want to build an eco-friendly home, or you have chemical sensitivities, look into building a home with little to no offgassing components. In the big picture, the construction industry is changing the way it manufactures products in order to limit or eliminate the use of materials that offgas.

Q: What’s an acceptable temperature to keep my garage at throughout the winter?

If the house is attached to the garage, you will want to keep it a little warmer, about 50 degrees.

In many cases, if you have a boiler and pipes in the garage, they may warm the garage more than you want just from the heat they give off, especially if your boiler is an older unit. Since it is not living space, if you have a garage that is 70 or 80 degrees, you may be using a lot of energy to heat that space. Also, that is a lot of heat that could be leaking out through the walls, which adds up to wasted energy. Don’t heat your garage anymore than you have to because it is a wasted expense.

A cooler garage is a good place to keep a refrigerator or freezer.

Keep the temperature at 60 to 40 degrees, or whatever your comfort zone is. On that note, if you are seeing a lot of condensation in the garage, which can happen by parking a wet vehicle inside, you might want to keep the temperature a little warmer or ventilate more.

Q: If I am interested in putting up a wind turbine.

Is this something I can do myself?

Installing a wind turbine is not that hard, but you definitely want to do it right or it will become very hard and very expensive. Even if installing the tower goes well, you are talking about lethal voltages of electricity, just as in any home. You don’t have to be a trained professional to do it right, but it’s prudent to work with people who are trained to install such specialized equipment.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org. You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

Small wind farm pays big

From Alaska Dispatch, Tuesday, February 23, 2010:

On Tuesday, the village of Unalakleet, seated on Alaska’s northwest coast, celebrated the town’s newest energy force — turbine number six. The awakening of the high-tech wind catcher completes the installation of the town’s new wind farm, which has already saved the village tens of thousands of dollars since the first turbines powered up a few months ago.

Since November, Unalakleet has cut utility costs by nearly $55,000 and generated enough electricity to power 86 homes for an entire year, according the wind farm’s new Web site. The site also claims the wind energy has significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise have been pumped into the atmosphere through more traditional, diesel-only power generation — the equivalent of more than 580,000 miles of driving in the family car. According to our calculations, that’s about 111 one-way trips between Anchorage and Key West, Florida.

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Small-scale turbines get big praise in two villages

From The Tundra Drums, Monday, December 21, 2009:

Two Western Alaska villages spinning power from small wind turbines say they’re saving thousands of dollars a year.

“I’m still amazed at what they’re doing,” said Gerald Kosbruk, president of the tribal government in Perryville on the southern Alaska Peninsula.

However, the head of the largest utility in rural Alaska, Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, cautioned that such wind turbines have their drawbacks.

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When is it time to replace your boiler?


By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: Oftentimes, if you get an energy rating done, replacing the boiler is the top recommendation. Is it worth the money and effort?

Boilers need to be examined on a case-by-case basis, so before you do anything, speak with a heating professional.

Often, there are little things you can do to a boiler that will make them more efficient. A lot of these little fixes depend on where your boiler exhausts, if you can add an outdoor reset, how much baseboard you have and if it’s time to have your system tuned. Sometimes small changes or additions in controls can help increase the efficiency of the boiler, and sometimes it just needs to be replaced with new technology.

However, fixing your old boiler won’t help if you are trying to gain points on your energy rating. Consult your energy rating paperwork to determine if the payback from replacing your boiler is worth the effort.

Q: Since we are in an Arctic climate, are there any challenges to having a wind system way up here?

There are not a lot of problems with most homesized wind turbines and their materials caused by the cold, dry Interior climate. That being said, wetter parts of Alaska have problems with ice collecting on towers and blades. When that happens, it throws the blades out of balance.

One way to gauge the effectiveness of a wind system is to check where it is made or where this type of system is installed. If a system is successfully installed in the cold regions of Canada, it’s probably OK for Alaska. Some systems are designed for areas that do not have cold temperatures, and they may not supply the right parts or materials, such as cold-weather grease, to function well in our climate.

Q: Most double- and triple-pane windows have gas between the panes. If a pane breaks, the gas will leak out. Is this any type of hazard?

Today, most window gases are Krypton or Argon. These gases are inert, so they pose no threat to human health. Still, multiple- paned windows are more energy efficient with the gas inside. As gas leaks out, air will leak in along with a little moisture. The moisture will cause frost or fog inside your window.

On that note, a window pane doesn’t have to be broken to let the gas escape. If the seal around the edge of the window fails, the gas can leak out. You can tell when a seal is broken because condensation will build up inside the window between the panes even if no glass is broken. Again, any frost or foggy windows are a sign that you could have a broken seal. Seals break down over time due to age, building settling, hot or cold exposure and a variety of other factors. Fortunately, windows can be refilled with gas and resealed by a professional.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org or call 457-3454.